Port Angeles officials view Native burial boxes up close

PORT ANGELES — City officials were touched emotionally last week by walking through a sacred storage area that contained dozens of cedar boxes filled with the remains of Lower Elwha Klallam tribal ancestors, Mayor Richard Headrick said Saturday.

Thursday’s tour was part of a three-hour visit and meeting, unannounced to the public, among tribal representatives and city staff and three council members at the Elwha tribal center.

But when it was over, little else had changed regarding the tribe’s position that the Hood Canal Bridge graving yard in Port Angeles should be shut down — and that hundreds of Elwha ancestral remains dug up during construction be reburied there.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said that while there was an exchange of ideas and perspectives Thursday, the tribe continued to believe graving yard construction should stay in shutdown mode, as it has since mid-December, and that the giant pontoons and anchors for the eastern half of the Hood Canal Bridge should be built elsewhere.

Remains on site

That, too, was Headrick’s understanding.

“They want to reinter the remains they dug up there,” Headrick said.

“They seemed pretty adamant. That was their only solution, I guess.

“That was pretty much all I got out of what they wanted it for.”

Still, Headrick retains the hope the tribe will change its position and work with the state Department of Transportation to reopen the site.

“I haven’t given up on it,” he said.

But a meeting scheduled for Tuesday between city and Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce officials and tribal representatives was postponed until an unspecified date later this month, Charles said.

It was put off Friday to allow the participation of state legislators representing the North Olympic Peninsula — Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, and state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, Charles said.

Schedules rearranged

“It is good to have Jim and all the parties involved, but it should have happened sooner,” Charles said, adding tribal leaders had already penciled in the Tuesday date and had to again juggle their personal schedules.

City and tribal representatives met for three hours Thursday afternoon.

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